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This is the popular form of what is known as the Serenity Prayer, which is apparently the one used to this day by Alcoholics Anonymous.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.

What bugs me about it? The first line is bass-ackwards.

Serenity is not the CAUSE of accepting the things you cannot change. Serenity is the RESULT of accepting the things you cannot change.

The first line of that prayer should really be “God grant me the ABILITY to accept the things I cannot change.” Serenity will follow of its own accord.

Waiting for serenity before you accept things they way they are is like waiting for satiety before you start eating. It makes no freakin’ sense.

I did a little Googling to find the exact wording and came across this article, which suggests that its reputed author, Reinhold Niebuhr, may not have originated it but picked it up from elsewhere. At least Niebuhr's version makes a little more sense to me:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

This, I think, is what can happen when you try to reduce things to memorable sound bits. You end up losing a little in the transition.

Today I took pleasure in taking a complicated file and starting to make sense of it.

Today I learned I'm still not completely over him yet.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, does sound wrong...

What if the alcoholic thinks "Well, can't change that I drink, but at least I'm serene about it"

Jul. 16th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah, does sound wrong...
Unfortunately, I think a number of them do.

When you've ingested enough alcohol to reach the point of physical addiction, you won't be able to change the urge to drink. What you can change is whether or not you act on that urge. I think that's supposed to be the point, but, again, the simplification rather dilutes the message.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )